By FEMI FALANA
As a former seminarian who fell by the wayside, I was pleasantly surprised to have been invited by the Catholic Secretariat to speak at the 2023 First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, on the theme, “Citizens’ Participation in Good Governance”.
My understanding of the topic is that it presupposes that ‘good governance’ is in place in Nigeria. Hence, I am required to examine the participation of citizens in it. As I intend to show anon, the term ‘good governance’ is a concept developed by the World Bank as one of the conditionalities for giving aid to countries that are battling with poverty and political chaos caused by imperialism.
No doubt, the Buhari administration has repeatedly maintained that one of the legacies that will be bequeathed to Nigeria is a seamless transfer of power in May 2023 through the conduct a fair and free election. But in view of the unwarranted suffering and anguish to which the people of Nigeria have been subjected as a result of the artificial scarcity of fuel and the new currency notes, it is doubtful if the election will not be disrupted. As major stakeholders in the polity, I have been reliably informed that the Catholic Bishops are praying fervently for the success of the election and installation of a regime that will promote ‘good governance’ in Nigeria.
The concept of Good Governance
The term, ‘good governance’ has been defined as “the process of measuring how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption and with due regard for the rule of law.” (Wikipedia) The World Bank’s good governance’ agenda is concerned with the relationship between the state, the market and civil society in loan-receiving countries. In a well cited quote, ex-United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Anan noted that “good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.” But Anan did not address how good governance can be used to eradicate poverty and promote development in an environment dominated by forces of underdevelopment.
But Shijvi has rightly maintained that “The ‘good governance’ discourse however, does not admit of the relationships of power. Rather it presents itself as a moral paradigm, distinguishing between the good and the bad and the evil. What is ‘good’ and bad governance thus turns out to be a moral judgment, on the one hand, and relativist and subjectivist, on the other. The result, I want to suggest, is that ‘good governance’ has no conceptual or theoretical value in understanding a phenomenon with a view to change it. Rather, it is, at best, a propagandist tool easily manipulatable by whoever happens to wield power. And this is exactly how it has been deployed in the dominant, neo-liberal discourse.” Issa Shijvi, The Struggle for Democracy, http.//www.marxist
Duty of the Government to provide for security and welfare of citizens
Indeed, the political objectives, economic objective, social objectives and cultural objectives of the Nigerian State are elaborately set out in the fundamental objectives contained in chapter two of the Nigerian Constitution. In particular, section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution states that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. The implication is that an elected government fails to provide for the security and welfare of the people is not fit to remain in power.
No doubt, section 6(6)(c) of the Constitution which states that the provisions of the fundamental objectives are not justiciable to prevent accountability on the part of the government. But an exception is allowed where the Constitution specifically provides otherwise. One of such exceptions is section 224 thereof which stipulates that “The programme as well as the aims and objects of a political party shall conform to the provisions of Chapter II of this Constitution.” Once a government is elected it shall be the duty and responsibility of all its organs and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution. It is submitted that any elected public officer that fails to preserve the fundamental objectives has failed to provide good governance.
Furthermore, before the assumption of office the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commissioners and Special Advisers as well as members of the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly of each State of the Federation shall subscribe to oath of allegiance which includes a commitment that they “strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Therefore, it is grossly misleading on the part of bourgeois lawyers and judges to state that the fundamental objectives are not binding on the government and public officers.
The betrayal of the people
In 2015, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Buhari administration had promised to channel their energies towards growing the economy, fighting the challenge of poverty, improving access to quality education, healthcare, national security in addition to the fight against corruption. But it is indisputable that the government has failed, since May 29, 2015, to confront the problems listed above. As if that is not enough, the regime has recently compounded the crises by subjecting the Nigerian people to artificial scarcity of fuel and currency.
My submission is that in growing the economy the policies of the government such as duty waivers, fuel subsidy, multiple exchange rates, grand corruption and privatisation of public assets have consolidated Nigeria as the global capital of poverty. Unemployment figure is 45 percent while the poverty rate is said to be 133 million. Even though the government has spent trillions of Naira on defence, nowhere in Nigeria is safe as terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and gunmen have taken over the monopoly of violence from the government. Lack of adequate funding for education has led to incessant strikes in educational institutions while Nigeria has 20 million out-of-school children, the highest figure in the world.
As the Buhari administration has lost the battle against corruption, public officers have embarked on a reckless looting of the treasury. Cases of monumental corruption are compromised and terminated on the basis of nolle prosequi applications filed by the office of the Attorney-general of the Federation. Other serious cases of fraud and money laundering are dismissed on technical grounds by criminal courts. In fact, the few Very Important Personalities or politically exposed persons who were convicted and jailed by the courts have been granted pardon by the President. Even some persons indicted by the anti-graft agencies for engaging in corrupt practices were recently conferred with national honour by the President. Today, only lowly placed internet fraudsters or yahoo yahoo boys are successfully prosecuted by the regime!
A few years ago, Claude Ake had decried the mockery of democracy when he said, “The trivialization of democracy has in turn trivialized notions of what democratization entails and what it takes for others to support democracy, it has led to the confusion of democratic processes with democratic outcomes. Thus external support for democracy has tended to be focused on multi-party democracy, easy tolerance of non-competitive electoral contests and presumption that voting amounts to choosing.” Nigeria is currently witnessing a situation whereby members of the ruling party are accusing each other of sabotaging the electoral process in order to pave way for the emergence of an interim government! At this juncture, permit me to review the ongoing political campaign and the state of the nation.
CHARTHAM HOUSE MEETINGS
In order to convince the West that the status quo in Nigerian will not be disrupted the candidates of some political parties travel to London to hold press conferences or grant interviews in the Chatham House. Such candidates showcase themselves before the representatives of their former colonial masters. The arrangement smacks of neocolonialism. If any of the candidates wins the elections he is going to continue to genuflect and pay obeisance before white Prime Ministers and Presidents.
After all, African leaders are now routinely summoned to Washington, London and Paris to brief Western leaders about the problems plaguing the continent. This is not unexpected given the quality of African leaders. Certainly, the Kwame Nkrumahs, the Nwalimu Nyereres and the Nelson Mandelas would not have attended some humiliating meetings. It is high time that African leaders were reminded of the cautionary statement of the late Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria that “Africa had come of age. It is no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or mar. For too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.”
Pope’s Message against imperialism
It is a great irony that while political leaders in Africa are rushing to the West for slavish endorsement, Pope Francis has boldly challenged the economic colonialism of the African continent by Western nations and multinational corporations. In particular, the Pontiff condemned the “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of humanity” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where vast mineral wealth has continued to fuel war, displacement and hunger.
In the historic speech, Pope Francis said the DRC’s history had been hobbled by conflict and a history of foreign domination and that “Political exploitation gave way to an economic colonialism that was equally enslaving. As a result, this country, massively plundered, has not benefited adequately from its immense resources. It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation. The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood.” In ending the speech the Pope scharged the West: Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.”
I suggest that the full text of the Pope’s speech in the DRC be reproduced and circulated in all parishes of the Catholic Church. As the reactionary forces profiting from the underdevelopment of the continent will not hands off Africa and will not stop choking Africa without a fight, the Catholic Bishops should not hesitate to use the message of the Pope to mobilise and prepare the members of the Church to wage a relentless battle against imperialism and its local lackeys. The Catholic Church should equally encourage its members in government to lead the battle against ‘economic colonialism’.
Palace Chapels and Mosques
In the past, heads of government and other political leaders worshipped with members of the public in Churches and Mosques. At the material time, the clerics were able to deliver sermons which reflected the state of the nation in many respects. There was a President who felt so uncomfortable by critical sermons that he made it a point of duty to seize the microphone and react to any criticism of his regime. To avoid listening to such sermons, public officers decided to build Mosques and Churches in the seat of power. Imams and chaplains are appointed and paid like civil servants, to attend to the spiritual needs of rulers and family members.
Since he who pays the piper dictates the tune the palace priests or clerics preach sermons that eulogise the heads of government as they pray for the success of the regimes headed by them. The Catholic Bishops should review the posting of priests to State Houses to minister unto the President and Governors. The Church must return to the status quo ante bellum so that all public officers are made to join the congregation in worshipping God.
Funding welfare and development
The federal government and all state governments usually complain of lack of resources to fund the welfare of the people and infrastructural development. Contrary to such escapist explanation, it is submitted that the country is capable of raising revenue to fund education, health and social services. But due to lack of political will the Governments have refused to collect huge fund that has been diverted, looted or hidden by members of the ruling class. Do we have candidates that will pluck up the courage to recover our stolen wealth running into hundreds of billions of dollars.
In 2006, the CBN yanked off $7 billion from the Federation Account and distributed it to 14 banks. Based on reliable information on the illegal withdrawal of the fund, I submitted a petition to the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property. The investigation was conducted and the CBN claimed that it was a ‘debt’ which had been forgiven. Was the fund appropriated by the National Assembly? Does the CBN have the power to remove fund from the Federation Account, fixed it in commercial banks only turn round and declare that the fund has been converted to debt and forgiven?
In 2008, the sum of N600 billion ($4 billion) was set aside to bail out the banks? Although the CBN ensured that the toxic debts of the comprador bourgeoisie were paid with trillions of Naira? From 2015-2022, not less than N20 trillion duty waivers were granted to some selected captains of industry. Nigerians must interrogate the State to know the criteria for granting duty waivers. A few months ago, the Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB) requested the federal Government through the Federal Minister to recover a total sum of N94 trillion from a group of individuals and corporate bodies.
Even though the Minister did not deem it fit to accede to the request the candidates have not shown any interest in the contents of the letter. Sometime in 2016, the members of the Senate unanimously accepted a report of one of its Committees which had called for the cancellation of the privatization of public assets carried out by successive Governments on the ground that they were sold in a fraudulent manner. There are other reports of both houses of the national assembly on the grand mismanagement of the economy and looting of the treasury which have been ignored by the executive organ of the Federal Government. Are there candidates that are prepared to review the reports and implement the recommendations where necessary?
Funding fuel subsidy scam
The Buhari administration claims that fuel subsidy will gulp N6.5 trillion this year. Instead of probing the fuel subsidy scam, some candidates have promised to remove any form of subsidy, a euphemism for fuel increase. If fuel subsidy is removed what is the substitute? In January 2020, the Federal Government announced plans to have vehicles running on PMS switched to CNG. It was estimated that the cost would be N95 per litre. The CBN earmarked N250 billion for willing investors to convert vehicles run on PMS to CNG. Countries like Cote d’ivoire, Algeria, South Africa and India have hundreds of vehicles run on CNG which is cheaper and more eco-friendly. Why is it that no candidate is prepared to ensure that all commercial vehicles are made to migrate from PMS to CNG in the before the end of 2023?
Even though the Federal Government claims that ‘government has no business in business’ the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) has invested $2.7 billion in the Dangote Refinery while not less than 300,000 barrels of crude oil will be allocated to the refinery per day. The Federal Government has also invested in some other refineries. What is the implication of the commercial arrangement for the economy? Or what benefit will the country derive from such commercial ventures? The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited, owned by the Federation, is one of the most successful companies in Africa.
Having earned of over $25 billion dividend from NLNG the federal government ought to account for the money as it was destined for the Federation Account. One wonders why the apostles of privatization and concession among the candidates are not interested in the NLNG model, a joint partnership between the Federal Government and 6 oil companies? And pursuant to the Petroleum Industry Act the NNPC has been incorporated as a limited liability company. Why is the national assembly still summoning the officials of the company when it is no longer a parastatal of the Federal Government? Are the candidates prepared to allow the NNPCL to operate like Aramco of Saudi Arabia or Petrogas of Brazil which are viable commercial entities?
It is public knowledge that the Buhari administration has paid $1.5 billion to fix the Port Harcourt refinery. The sum of $743 million has also been earmarked for fixing the Kaduna refiner while plans are underway to fix the Warri refinery. Without considering the huge public fund spent in fixing the refineries, some candidates have undertaken to sell them to political allies and friends. For goodness sake, are these candidates aware that the refineries are not properties of the Federal Government but owned by the Federation i.e. the Federal Government, the 36 State Governments and the 774 Local Governments?
Artificial scarcity of fuel
Against the increasing fuel scarcity across the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd) has said that it has two billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, in stock. It has been speculated that the artificial scarcity of fuel is designed to force Nigerians to accept the increase in the pump price of PMS. In many parts of the country, petrol is sold between N300 and N600 per litre. It is difficult to dismiss the speculation the Federal Government has not explained the cause of the fuel scarcity.
To give the impression that the crisis is being addressed a Task Force headed by President Buhari was set up a couple of weeks ago. Since the President is the head of the Task Force, to whom will the body report? But like similar Task Forces set up in the past the new Task Force will not solve the crisis. The President and Minister of Petroleum Resources should direct the NNPCL to supply adequate fuel and ensure that the product is sold at the official price. Anyone who hoards the product or who sell it beyond the official price should be arrested and prosecuted.
Alternative to PMS
On January 16, 2020, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timpere Silva announced the plan of the Federal Government to reduce the pump price of fuel by migrating from the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) at a cost of about N95 to N97 per litre. The Minister further informed the members of the public that the CNG had undergone a pilot project in Benin City, Edo State where over 10,000 vehicles are already running on it.
In order to facilitate the conversion of vehicles run on PMS to CNG the Federal Government caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to set aside a whopping sum of N250 billion for willing investors in autogas assembly plants. But in a bid to continue the fraud laden subsidy regime the Federal Government has abandoned the planned conversion of vehicles run on PMS to CNG .
Instead of committing themselves to the investigation of the massive fuel subsidy scam, some presidential candidates have threatened to remove subsidy and consequently increase the prices of petroleum products in the country if they win the election. We warn such politicians to drop the dangerous agenda unless they are prepared to rule a dead people. We are compelled to call on the Federal Government to join the list of governments in Africa that are encouraging end users to convert their conventional fuel vehicles to bio-fuel vehicles like CNG and LPG fuel as these fuels are more environment friendly and have lower carbon dioxide emissions.
The currency scarcity
In defence of the Naira redesign policy, President Buhari stated that the aim of the government is to demonetise the electoral and prevent money bags from hijacking the 2023 general elections. But the poor implementation of the policy has further weaponised poverty in the land. Having lost faith in the competence of the police and other security agencies to arrest vote buyers the President accepted the suggestion of the Central Bank Management that N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations be coloured or redesigned. Even though the 1984 colouring of the Naira was a policy disaster the Buhari administration did not reckon with the fact that the amount of money in circulation is less than five percent of the total fund in the banks. The President was made to believe that there was so much money in circulation even though the alleged figure of N3.3 trillion bandied by the CBN is about five percent of the entire money
It has been disclosed that the regime was also misled to believe that the Print and Mint was capable to print enough money to replace the old notes. This was confirmed by a Presidential Aide, Ajuri Ngelale who said, “What we are working to do is to ensure that Mr. president is given effective and true information that the reports that have been given by the Central Bank of Nigeria that they have adequately supplied all banking branches in the country with sufficient amounts of the new Naira notes, that this is absolutely false. It is evident at this point. And of course, Mr. President, being the pro people, defender of the masses that he has always been, did the right thing when the intelligence reached him that indeed, he was getting false intelligence from the Central Bank, which was to extend the deadline from January 31 to February 10.”
When the APC Governors met the President last week he asked for 7 days to resolve the crisis. It is now 10 days and the President has not taken any action. We are compelled to call on the President to take a decision to avoid a complete disruption of the economy and the political transition. This cashless situation and the public angst and frustration that flow therefrom cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. Otherwise, we will soon confront complete anarchy in which everyone will lose out.
The Central Bank is alleged to have mopped up the N2.7 trillion but printed only N300 billion which has been distributed to the rich and well-connected individuals in the country. On account of the poor implementation of the policy, it is likely that the politicians who have access to billions of the new Naira notes are going to induce voters or buy votes with as little as N500 or less. Since it is now clear that enough Naira notes have not been printed the Central Bank should allow the old Naira notes to be legal tender in Nigeria. This suggestion is in line with Section 22 of the Central Bank Act which permits the replacement of old currency notes with new ones after the deadline fixed by the CBN.
Judicial Intervention in the Electoral Process
It is submitted that the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to disqualify aspirants who did not participate in the party primaries. But by asking aggrieved aspirants to challenge the conduct of the party primaries INEC encourage the deluge of pre-election cases that were filed in the federal high court in the various states. The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu has disclosed that the commission has been joined in 1,241 pre-elections cases received by it as at February 6th, with over 300 at the Court of Appeal and 155 pending before the Supreme Court. In fact, the Court of Appeal has disclosed that 600 appeals arising from pre-election cases have been filed by aggrieved parties and that no provision has been made for the Justices that will hear the appeals.
In the case of APC v Machina, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal and declared the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan the winner of the senatorial primary conducted in the Yobe senatorial constituency. It is submitted that the majority of pre-election cases which were commenced by originating summons in strict compliance with the Practice Directions issued by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court are liable to be struck out. Thus, many aspirants are going to be declared candidates and authorized to contest the general elections on the basis of technicalities, even if they had not participated in the party primaries. The National Judicial Council should take urgent steps to avoid a situation whereby the courts are used to scuttle the democratic process through the issuance of questionable orders.
Denial of the right of customers to access their money
It is submitted that the denial of access to the account of a customer by a bank via the ATM when the customer has enough money in the account is a violation of the fundamental right to property and a breach of duty of care and contract. In the case of MOSES JWAN v. ECOBANK (2021) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1785) 449 at 485 per Aliyu JCA held that, “The ATM card issued by a bank being akin to a cheque, must be honoured on request once there is enough funds in the customer’s account, and failure to do that mean the bank is in breach of duty of care owed to it’s customer.” Consequently, the Court of Appeal awarded general damages of N500,000.00 (Five hundred thousand Naira) against ECOBANK for failure to pay its customer the sum of N10,000.00 (Ten thousand Naira) through the Bank’s ATM.
If the current cash crisis is not resolved by the President and the CBN Management as soon as possible the country may witness a deluge of cases filed by millions of customers against commercial banks over the denial of access to their legitimate fund. If the customers are compelled to resort to litigation in the circumstance, some of the banks may be liquidated as a result of the colossal damages that may be awarded to customers by the courts for breach of contract. After all, the CBN has continued to insist that the commercial banks have been supplied with sufficient fund.
Illegality of CBN deadline of February 10
By virtue of section 22 of the Central Bank Act which provides that the CBN shall redeem old currency notes, I had said that the deadline of February 10 given by the CBN for the currency swap was not sacrosanct. And when Mr. Emefiele appeared before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee looking into the implementation of the policy on January 31 he said that commercial banks must accept the old Naira notes even after the expiration of the 10 February deadline. He has since turned round to say that only the CBN could redeem the old currency notes after the deadline.
Following the ex parte order issued by the Supreme Court which extended the deadline for replacement of the old currency notes with new ones, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN announced that the Federal Government would comply with the interim injunction. But in utter defiance of the order of the apex court and in contravention of section 22 of the Central Bank Act the CBN Management has decided to ignore the order of the apex court. Hence, all commercial banks have rejected the old currency notes.
In misleading the CBN Management, some lawyers have insisted that apex bank is an independent institution and that it is not a party to the cases of Attorney-General of Kaduna State & 2 Ors v Attorney-General of the Federation pending at the Supreme Court. Interestingly, the Supreme Court has ruled that the CBN is an agency of the Federal Government in the case of Obiuwvera v Central Bank of Nigeria where Rhodes-Vivour JSC held that,”This suit has to do with the administration or management and control of the Federal Government. The respondent is a Federal agency and the appellant is/was its employee. The termination of the appellant’s appointment is on administrative action by an agency of the Federal Government, the respondent.”
In the same vein, in the case of Fayose v EFCC & Anor (2018) LPELR 46474(CA) the Court of Appeal dismissed the claim of that the CBN is an independent institution when Dongban-Mensem JCA (now PCA) held that, “The independent status of the 2nd Respondent touted by the Appellant is a lame link. Section 1(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act has not been shown to be independent of the legal guidance of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation who is the Chief Legal Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nor was it demonstrated to the Court of trial that the independent status of the CBN takes it out of the supervisory management of the Hon. Ministry of Finance who is a Public Officer.”
In view of the pronouncement of both appellate courts to the effect that the CBN is an agency of the Federal Government the provocative disregard for the valid and subsisting order of the Supreme Court by the Management of the apaex court should not go unchallenged in view of section 287 of the Constitution which stipulates that, “The decisions of the Supreme Court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court.” Otherwise, the CBN would have set down a dangerous precedent for the subversion of the rule of law in Nigeria.
Expectations of Nigerian people after the 2023 General Elections
It is unfortunate but not surprising that a number of candidates seeking political offices are not addressing the imperialist control of the resources of the nation. In particular, they have not traced the root cause of the crisis of poverty, underdevelopment, infrastructural decay, corruption, unemployment and illiteracy. The manifestoes and programmes of the candidates as well as the campaigns are not providing specific answers to the problems. Nigeria has spent over $70 billion on power supply and has generated only 5,000 megawatts. How did Egypt generate 14,000 megawatts with $9 billion in less than 3 years? Which candidate is prepared to create industrial zones with uninterrupted electricity supply for the production of all goods?
How many candidates are prepared to declare their assets and allow the anti-graft agencies to function without political interference? How many candidates are prepared to actualize the provisions of the Constitution on judicial independence and financial autonomy for the judiciary? How many candidates are prepared to shun abuse of office and undertake to comply with court orders and respect the rule of law?
On a daily basis, citizens are arrested and detained and forced to buy their freedom by paying for bail. Illegal detention and illegal arraignment of poor people which lead to prison congestion are a common phenomenon. Torture of and extrajudicial killing of suspects is a common occurrence. To put an end to the callous disregard for the human rights of our people there are laws that have provided for the appointment of a legal practitioner to man the human rights desk in every police station as Chief Magistrates are required to conduct monthly visits to all police stations. How many candidates are prepared to end the illegal arrest and detention of citizens?
We have unemployment rate of 45 percent. How will the candidates address the crisis of unemployment in concrete terms? Will the candidates who are asking young people to engage in fa rming set up modern farms equipped with farm implements and machinery? Will they group young farmers into cooperatives and empower them financially?
Nigeria is also the global capital of poverty. How will each candidate deal with these problems? There are laws that have made education free and compulsory from primary school to junior secondary school for every Nigerian child. Has any candidate promised to enforce the laws to remove children from the streets and enroll them in schools? Will the Commission for Adult Literacy be reorganized to educate the over 60 million illiterates in Nigeria?
I wish to point out that I did not set out to scare the Catholic Bishops by listing the main problems that have arrested the development of the nation. I believe that the Catholic Bishops cannot afford to be despondent on account of the problems that have been identified in my paper. As the primus inter pares among the Churches in Nigeria, the Catholic Church owes it a duty to provide positive guidance for other faith based organisations. I wish to join Pope Francis in urging the Church to be involved in the struggle of the African people against imperialism. It is a task that can be achieved if you are prepared to embrace liberation theology.
The Catholic Secretariat should collaborate with the Bishop Kukah Centre, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation led by Rev Fr. George Ehusani and the Justice Development and Peace Commission. I suggest the setting up of a Human Rights Commission to be coordinated by the Catholic Secretariat. The proposed commission should have branches in all parishes of the Church with the main task of providing pro bono services for all victims of human rights abuse including women and children who are increasingly subjected to domestic violence in the society.
*The above are excerpts from the paper presented by Femi Falana SAN at the 2023 Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops held at the Catholic Secretariat, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory on February 13, 2023